With the last weekend of summer upon us, it seems like a good time to catch up on some of the latest releases. Recently, there's been a bunch of new releases from favorite artists of mine whose albums have been a long time in the making. Many of them have been worth the wait. Most of the albums on this list are perfect for the end of summer, before I make my annual switch to Fall folk music. So turn up the hi-fi and enjoy.
Cat Power - Sun: Chan Marshall is easily one of the best singer songwriters of the past fifteen years, so having to wait four years between albums felt like a really long time. This week, the wait is over with the release of Sun. During her hiatus, Cat Power's sound has evolved. It's more up tempo, a trend that actually started back with 2006's The Greatest. There's definitely more of a pop sensibility than she has ever showed before. For the most part, it works quite well. Plus, one can't expect an artist to mope their entire career. That said, there are moments where the album can get a little annoying. Just a little...but that's nothing I've ever had to say about a Cat Power album before. Because of that however, I predict this will be a commercial success.
The View - Cheeky for a Reason: The lads from Scotland aren't such lads these days. Since their 2007 debut, the band has enjoyed moderate success in the UK, but their previous three wonderful albums have been largely ignored in the US. In the same category as The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and other indie rock bands from the UK in the last decade, The View are actually one of the most interesting. They often take risks. They can be extremely raw at times, and beautifully melodic at others. As with most of their records, this one has grown on me with every listen. This album is a little more straight forward, yet manages to be better than anything played on the radio.
Smoke Fairies - Blood Speaks: It's been two years since this British folk duo released their eerie Through Low Light and Trees and in that time, there have been many more folk bands to emerge. Where Smoke Fairies differ is in their allegiance to the British style of folk heard on gems from late '60s and early '70s, rather than the Americana roots that most folk bands are following. They've wisely updated the sound with more modern guitar and a slightly darker sound. A very solid third album.
Bonnie Prince Billy - Now Here's My Plan: Just when you might think Will Oldham could possibly be running out of material, he released this new EP covering his own songs. The amazing thing is how different these songs sound. Many of the are unrecognizable from the original, especially the rollicking version of the ultimate downer tune "I See A Darkness." Definitely a must of any fan.
Langhorn Slim - The Way We Move: It's been three years since the folk singer/songwriter released his breakthrough album Be Set Free. He's used that time well, crafting the best album of his career so far. Featuring a full band, this album drives a lot harder than his previous efforts, yet still has it's beautiful softer moments like "Coffee Cups," and "Song for Sid." The album closes with "Past Lives" a song he used as a set closer when I saw him play back in January and it really closes the album perfectly. This has easily skyrocketed into my top albums of the year so far.
Milo Greene - Milo Greene: This California folk quintet's debut album has been the perfect soundtrack for the end of the summer. I first caught their video for the great song "1957" on 120 Minutes a few weeks ago and went searching for the album the next day. With four singers in the band, the sound is like a lush Mazzy Star, or a more accessible Fleet Foxes. It also reminds me of the Alex Ebert album, which has been a favorite of mine this year.
The Antlers - Undersea: This new EP from the Brooklyn indie folk band follows last years Burst Apart with a somewhat more dreamy tone. The thing that I always enjoy about them is their literary style of storytelling. Their lyrics are dense and poetic and work well with the slow wandering of the music. For whatever reason, it feels as though they've really perfected their aim on these four songs, especially on "Crest."